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Sustainability Leadership - Frequently Asked Questions



1. What is Sustainability Leadership?

Sustainability Leadership is an emerging field that is developing rapidly in recent years. The leadership skills needed for sustainability issues go beyond traditional leadership theory of vision and shared responsibility. Sustainability leaders must have the skills to address stakeholder conflict, make deep ethical choices, and navigate the layers of uncertainty and interconnection. “These qualities require leadership theory and practice suited to cross-boundary, systems-oriented thought and action” (Shribert and MacDonald, 2013).

Edgewood College’s Sustainability Leadership Graduate Program is the first face-to-face, place-based master’s program in the nation. We utilize community engagement and project-based learning to effectively build the network, knowledge base, skill set and analytic and evaluation tools to prepare students to be effective sustainability leaders with diverse interests and backgrounds and a shared passion for creating positive change. Our goal is to create a collaborative innovation center for those who recognize the urgent call to create abundant, healthy, and prosperous communities.

2. How do I decide whether the Certificate or MA degree is right for me?

The 12-Credit Certificate Program serves as a stand-alone option or as the foundational core for the MA, and also as Concentrations within the MBA and MA in Education degrees. All students start with the same three core courses. The MA course work builds from these core courses, so you can complete the Certificate coursework in 9-months, or decide, at any time, to continue with the additional MA coursework.

3. Who are typical Sustainability Leadership students?

Program participants represent a wide variety of fields: non-profit, government, and corporate management; economic development, planning and design; education; facilities management; public health; and energy and utilities. Students enter the program at various stages of their careers. Some students have recently completed their undergraduate degrees and are looking for the skills, connections and project-based learning that will propel them into their careers. Others are already in their chosen careers, and are looking for the knowledge and skills to enhance the work they are doing by launching or furthering the sustainability efforts of their current organization. Some students are making a career change, looking to align their work with their values and passion for leading change in their communities and organizations. It is never too early or too late to develop the skills and join the network of sustainability professionals making positive change.

4. What types of careers does this program prepare me for?

Alumni of our program serve a variety of fields and positions in non-profit, government, and corporations. They are sustainability project managers and coordinators, program directors, energy analysts, and educators. Here is what some of our graduates are doing now:

Tom Klein
Cambridge Innovation Center, Associate

Tom works to insure that the hundreds of entrepreneurs and start-ups who call CIC home are able to focus on their mission by providing them with technical assistance, and connecting stakeholders with each other. He is also charged with developing enhancements to the Center, and recently designed a solution for composting and improvements for bicycle parking.

Matthew Doyle Olson
IPM Institute of N. America, Project Manager
Matthew manages the development and operation of sustainable food initiatives with project partners, such as Whole Foods Market.

Jennifer Greenwald
Muir Elementary School Teacher
Jen is a teacher at Muir Elementary in Madison. Each day she tries to find ways to infuse a sense of commitment to our earth and all its inhabitants into her teaching. Recent projects include: coordinating the school gardens; leading the "Power Patrol;" conducting waste audits and starting a composting program (She designed a compost bin with the help of SLP classmate and artist, Kristin Sobol); and regularly asking students to consider what they will do with this "one wild and precious life."

5. What knowledge and skills will I learn that will be applicable in my career?

  • Effective communication skills, including stakeholder engagement, coalition building, facilitation, managing multiple perspectives, negotiation skills, and articulating a cause.
  • Key concepts, perspectives, and tools provided by various sustainability frameworks/models, including: systems thinking, permaculture, environmental justice, ecological design, ecological accounting, resilience, abundance models, and social innovation
  • How to effectively apply and evaluate the usefulness of different sustainability frameworks/models for particular situations
  • How to utilize a wide range of leadership roles critical to organizational change
  • Ability to generate support for change in organizations and communities through the effective use of strong communication skills and participatory process
  • How to tap into key resources to advance sustainability goals
  • Project management skills, such as establishing project goals and indicators of success.
  • Self-assessment that allows you to build on your particular leadership strengths

Continue your learning with the Master of Arts program to:

  • Apply the sustainability principles to the design of infrastructure, neighborhoods, and watersheds in the urban environment - watershed management; green infrastructure; ecological design; community engagement; placemaking; liveability; and walkability.
  • Create a "social innovation lab" that works to build and support collaborations among community members, non-profit organizations, businesses, and government agencies aimed at improving social, environmental, and economic “well-being” in impoverished or marginalized neighborhoods.
  • Using tools of participatory, transformative leadership (including asset-based community development, collective impact, and crowd-sourcing), learn the process to achieve sustainability goals that build social capital; improve public health; prevent violence; increase access to open space, public transport, and healthy foods; encourage social entrepreneurship; promote community economic development; and support community and youth leadership development.
  • Focus your learning experience by choosing from electives in business ethics, healthcare systems, entrepreneurship, organizational development, strategic marketing, sustainable water management, and more.